You just fell through ice: 9 ways to stay alive

Anyone who finds themselves on the ice should be prepared for the possibility of falling through and ready to perform a self-rescue


Perhaps you were in the process of rescuing someone, or perhaps you were doing something else, but all of a sudden, you’ve fallen through the ice. Are you prepared to get yourself out or do you plan on  waiting for someone else to come to your rescue? If you are in an urban area or with partners then relying on others might work, but if you are alone or in a rural area you may have no choice but to do it yourself.

If you have never fallen through the ice before, the very thought of doing so may seem like certain doom. But, rest assured, people have been falling through the ice — and living to tell about it — since the time of the caveman, and their secret to survival has been as simple as being prepared to do so. 
 
Anyone who finds himself on the ice should be prepared for the possibility of falling through and ready to perform a self-rescue. Here are nine keys to survival if you find yourself in this deadly predicament. 

1. Control the Situation
If at all possible, you want to control your entry into the water and slide in gradually rather than simply making a splash. If you feel the ice is breaking apart and you cannot get away, sit or lay down and let the ice open around you instead of under your feet.

2. Protect Your Face
The first hazard you face is sudden immersion, which usually causes an involuntary gasp for air and the ingestion of cold water. Try to prevent your head from submerging or, if this is not possible, cover your mouth and nose to block as much water as possible.

3. Don’t Panic
Panicking will do two things — cause you to lose control of the situation and needlessly waste valuable energy. Take a moment to relax, assess the situation, and survive. Remember that regardless of the situation, knowing you can survive will help you do so.

4. Call for Help
If your radio is still working, now would be a good time to let dispatch know what is happening. If there are other people in the area there is no shame in shouting for help or using a whistle to attract their attention.

5. Get Positioned
Place your arms flat on the ice facing the direction of safety and float your legs behind you in a horizontal position. Think of when you were learning to swim and would hang on the side of the pool while practicing your kicks.

6. Be a Frog
Lift yourself onto your elbows, which provides better traction, and frog kick as hard as you can. The goal is to obtain as much forward momentum as possible so you slide up and out of the water. Do not panic if the ice breaks under you, just push the broken ice under the next piece and repeat kicking until you find solid ice able to hold your weight. This is also when you can use your knife, keys or even handcuffs as improvised ice claws driving them into the ice to get a better grip while pulling and kicking out of the water.

7. Move to Safety
Once on the ice, do not attempt to stand and run for the shore. Chances are good that the surrounding ice is also weak and may break under your weight. Instead, you should distribute your weight as widely as you can by rolling or low crawling away from the hole until the ice is thick enough to support you. 

8. Get Warm
Escaping the icy water is only half the battle, now you are fighting the cold and possible hypothermia. You need to get warm now. If help has not yet arrived you should get into your cruiser, crank the heat and either replace wet clothing with dry or cover yourself with blankets, coats or anything else you have available. Either way at trip to the ER is in your future.

9. Stay Tactical
Although your first thought may be to drop your duty gear and reduce the weight it adds you need to remember freezing may not be your only threat, especially if you were chasing a bad guy when you went for a swim. While in the water, and even once you have rescued yourself, you will be very vulnerable to attack and must be prepared to defend yourself.

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